I was asked to share my testimony and since Jesus is my Lord and Savior, I am always happy to speak of him to anyone. He has done so much for me. I could write about years of sexual abuse, dysfunction in my family, church abuse, etc. but really, my testimony would match many, many others. I can share that sometime...I am not opposed to it … but because God has brought me through it there is one thing I have learned: I don’t wear the T-shirt “I was abused” anymore. I don’t blame my reactions on “someone hurt me in church”. I can’t blame who I am or who I have become on some past experience. It is up to me to forgive, to right the wrong, get past it and move on...which I have! This is my current testimony! This is what God is doing in my life TODAY! I will say, to start this off, if you have never attended “Come to the Fire”, you are missing a life changing experience. Plan to go next October and you will be forever different! Here is my story!
The Healing of Forgiveness
Really, it all started 4 years ago at “Come the Fire—Grove City, OH 2010” Rondy Smith had just finished an amazing story of her journey to the cross at a Monastery in Kentucky. I actually think I was the first one out of my seat and to the altar. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was wishing Rondy would ‘HUSH’ so I could step out and sprint to the altar. (Sorry, Rondy) My best friend Lisa would probably say she was the first one there. At any rate I had work to do and she also. We were oblivious of one another. In God’s sovereign will we ended up side by side, each crying out to the Lord… asking Him what he wanted from us. We knew what he wanted to say was important and we knew it was big. What He said was that we were to work together for him and he would lead the way. We both heard it clearly, without understanding what it all meant.
Our friendship grew from friends to best friends to sisters throughout our journey together! I have never had a friendship like I have with Lisa. We worked hard together and our spiritual gifts complemented each other. We would often laugh together until we were sick to our stomachs and we relished our ’goofy times.” The Lord certainly put us together for His service, but also for our own enjoyment! It’s not often women at our age can find a best girlfriend like we did. My husband enjoyed seeing us having fun together. Lisa would soon marry and I stood beside her at the wedding.
At the time, Lisa and I attended the same church. I, her Pastor’s wife, and she the wife of a board member and a high school vice-principal. We came from hugely different backgrounds. Her family was Mexican, mine was Anglo. I was saved at age 8 and raised in the church, living on a farm in Iowa. She was raised in California, raised Catholic and had found Jesus just 4 years previously. And yet our passion for serving the Lord was equal... we felt a remarkable kinship in our service to Him.
From that moment at the altar a new ministry was born! In short, the Lord began to bless our friendship through our service to Him. What began as a personal journey to ‘be Jesus outside the walls of the church” became a strong ministry in our church and to our community. It was called “Faith OUTloud” and James 2:17 was our mantra. Very shortly after returning from “Come to the Fire” we began to partner with a pregnancy center, a half way house, two nursing homes and a food distribution ministry. Our favorite thing was standing on a corner in downtown Sparta with a group of people from our church and handing out FREE coffee and donuts to passing motorists, in Jesus name. With the blessing of my pastor-husband and our church board, we mentored/guided people toward the command in James 2:17 “...God-talk without God-acts is Outrageous nonsense” ...to work out our faith. We created a mission statementand soon, about 75% of the church was involved in some kind of service to the Lord outside the church walls. People in the community began to take notice and “Faith OUTloud” became a viable resource to our city. Lisa and I became logistical chairpersons for the East Tennessee District NDR. We also organized and led mission teams from our church to disaster areas for clean up and even raised money for most trips so people could go for free. God blessed our friendship after that evening at the altar and our friendship grew.
The Devil is a Liar
Let me say this here, “When you are working for the Lord, the devil does not like it and will do whatever he can to destroy it.” We knew this, we felt it many times, and we took measures so it would not happen to us. We took prayer retreats, met each week for planning, prayed together often and guarded our relationship for the Glory of God.
Because I do not want to give the devil one bit of glory, I will leave the negative details out. The details don’t matter because it could have been anything and anyone, but after working so well together for 3 years, the devil lied to us both. In a weak moment his lies sounded like truth to both of us and what had been clear became clouded, angry, and ugly. Our friendship imploded and what had been working so well and was so good, ceased to exist. For nearly a year and half, we rarely spoke to each other and the gap in our relationship grew wider and wider. The Bible says the devil is a liar and speaks his native tongue. He knows at what moment to attack and he knows what words to use to make his lies sound and feel like truth. He choose the moment when we were both grieving loss, tired, and frustrated. How could this happen in the midst of so much good? How could this happen to women who loved each other like sisters?
How could this happen to Christians?
Fast forward to THIS year…”Come to the Fire-Grove City 2014. As always, there I was, asking the Lord what He wanted to teach me. I had brought a group of ladies from my new church, but I was there, seeking personally and I encouraged them to do the same. I was ready for new light from the Lord and they were too.
That first night I heard the Lord clearly say “Robin, I want you to give up control!” At first I was perplexed, I thought I had. But as he reminded me about the past year, I realized how I had been responding to it. I had lost my best friend and sister, Lisa. My father had died. I fell and had broken my back. We had moved to Tennessee to take a church in Shipshewana, IN … and on and on! My life certainly had changed in so many ways and without realizing it, I felt out of control. As I looked back in recent days and weeks, I could see a pattern was growing in me that I was not proud of. I was subconsciously trying to take control... and in doing so, was leaving God’s authority out. I was attempting to control everything and everyone around me. My life felt like it was spinning out of control , so I thought I needed to fix it. What the Lord was saying to me struck home that first night. I knelt at the altar asking for God’s forgiveness, confident He would carry me through whatever was to come. I gave Him back the controls of my destiny and stopped trying to ‘fix it’!
I got up from the altar a few minutes later, satisfied all was clear between the Lord and I. As I turned from the altar there was Lisa. She was there praying about something totally different. I knew she was at the event. We had spoken earlier, but I had no idea she had come to the altar or that she was right behind me. I knelt in front of her, she looked up and in an instant God’s healing poured over us both. It was his ’healing balm’ so it required no words. The tears came and in that instant, what Satan meant to harm and destroy was healed. The past was gone. We asked each other’s forgiveness but it really didn’t need to be said. God met us there in that moment. He made it right. He erased every bit of ugly and made it beautiful again. God ordained that meeting for ‘such a time as this’...just as he had done four years before. We agreed to forgive/forget and start over. The devil lost what he thought he had gained!
As a side note
The church in Sparta, Tennessee continues to serve the Lord outside the walls in incredible ways. As far as I know, nobody there knew what happened between us. I never spoke of it to anyone and I doubt Lisa did either. I only spoke good of her and I believe, she of me!
Neither of us now attend the Sparta church. That congregation has a new Pastor. Lisa is serving in church in another town in Tennessee, and I am now living in Middlebury, IN. We know we are destined to work together again. He told us we would. We don’t know how or when, but it was ordained of God then, and it has not changed!
A few minutes ago, I hung up from Face Time with Lisa. We are praying together every week at a pre-arranged time. This time...the devil will NOT get his way. We have things to do for the Lord and we WILL do them!
By Robin Marshall, Middlebury Church of the Nazarene